Sav­ing two peo­ple’s lives

The Progress-Index Weekend - - LOCAL - By Harper Smith Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary Harper Smith is a mem­ber of the Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary Class of 2019.

At a time when I needed to make a dra­matic change in my life, so­cial me­dia helped me save one per­son’s life and change an­other’s for­ever.

In May 2016, I read a post on Face­book called, “Vir­ginia Sin­gle Father Search­ing For Liv­ing Kid­ney Donor.” It pro­filed a man who had been di­ag­nosed with a dis­ease that shrinks the kid­neys. He was hooked up to a dial­y­sis ma­chine 10 hours a day while try­ing to par­ent his chil­dren. As I read the story over and over, I could not re­sist feel­ing his sense of help­less­ness. “I want to give him one of mine,” I told my brother. “This is some­thing I am meant to do ... as soon as pos­si­ble.” Coin­ci­den­tally, I had met this man five months ear­lier at a party hosted by mu­tual friends. Hav­ing now learned of his sit­u­a­tion on­line, I was ready to help.

My life was far from per­fect at that time. I dropped out of Christo­pher New­port in 2013. I was a mem­ber of the vol­ley­ball team, but CNU wasn’t the place for me. I par­tied five days a week and weighed 270 pounds be­cause I couldn’t pass a fast food res­tau­rant with­out go­ing in. Dur­ing this time, fur­ther­ing my ed­u­ca­tion was the last thing on my mind. But when I read the Face­book post about some­one so sick, some­thing clicked. I knew at that very mo­ment I had to change my life and save his.

My fam­ily and friends heard about my de­sire to do­nate my kid­ney. We were all in agree­ment but over­whelmed with the next four months of med­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal prepa­ra­tion needed to do­nate a kid­ney. Luck­ily, the surgery was a com­plete suc­cess, and I healed feel­ing bet­ter phys­i­cally and men­tally than ever be­fore. To­day I am 100 pounds lighter, main­tain a Ve­gan diet, a strict ex­er­cise reg­i­men, and I am a happy per­son study­ing and play­ing vol­ley­ball at Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary.

When I dropped out of CNU, I didn’t think I’d ever play vol­ley­ball again. I knew of RBC Coach Scott New­ton from Rich­mond area vol­ley­ball, and he en­cour­aged me to en­roll at Richard Bland.

I first con­cen­trated on my aca­demics through­out the year, and then be­came el­i­gi­ble to play vol­ley­ball this year. Aca­demics used to be the last thing on my mind, but with the sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment at RBC, I am a Dean’s List stu­dent. Ev­ery day I look at the scars on my body and re­mem­ber that by giv­ing to save a life, I was saved.

Be­ing a stu­dent-ath­lete at RBC has given me a sec­ond chance at school, vol­ley­ball, and most im­por­tantly, a healthy life­style.

Harper Smith is a mem­ber of the Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary Class of 2019. This States­man Scholar says “be­ing a stu­dent-ath­lete at RBC has given me a sec­ond chance at school, vol­ley­ball, and most im­por­tantly, a healthy life­style.”

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